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Meet James Millar, award winning photographer and The Indytute's photography guru. Want to take better photos? This blog is an excellent place to start...

james millar photography

James Millar Photography

I’ve been teaching street photography for the past four years and the words I hear from students most often are: “I can’t take a good picture” and “I’m no photographer”.  So right from the off, I’m here to tell you, you absolutely can and you absolutely can be. 

Whilst there are some lucky souls out there who may have a natural aptitude for taking good pictures, I am firmly of the belief that everyone has the innate ability to be a good photographer. 

One of the most satisfying parts of teaching photography for me is that light bulb moment when one of my students tries out a photographic technique we’ve been looking at and their picture is a cracker. It’s that look of surprised pride when they produce something they didn’t think they were capable of, which makes being a teacher totally worthwhile. 

I know that by following a few simple rules, being brave and taking lots of pictures anyone can start producing pictures which sing. 

Stressing over the gear is pointless and having the best stuff doesn’t matter anything like as much as you might think. People often tell me they get intimidated by all the buttons and settings. As your interest develops you might want to start to learn some of these, but starting out, there is nothing wrong with setting your camera to auto and shooting away. Photography is fun and should not be limited by the camera, which is just a tool for seeing and capturing the World around you. 

If I could give you two pieces of advice it’d be; try and see the World from a different perspective and keep taking lots of pictures. With this in mind, in this blog post I’ll be introducing you to a couple of basics we look at during my photography courses, which I hope will point you in the right direction. 

photography workshopPhoto credit: Phillippa on the Urban Photography Safari

The first is using the Rule of Thirds. You may have heard of it and perhaps written it off as high falutin art-speak, but get your head around it and it’s a great starting point for any composition.  

Most smartphones have a grid setting which will give you a guide to this rule, but if your chosen camera doesn’t, it’s fine. Imagine your frame with two lines running vertically and another two lines running horizontally with equal spaces between them. The idea is to place your point of interest where the lines dissect. 

It sounds kinda obvious, but it’s surprising how many folk tend to put their subject dead centre in the frame, which can work sometimes, but more often looks kind of clunky and jarring. Offsetting your main subject leads to a more pleasing composition and gives space to include a secondary element. 

photography workshop

My second bit of advice would be to try and change the way you view the world around you. By viewing a scene from a different angle, one which you wouldn’t normally see, an everyday, mundane view, straight away, becomes more interesting. This could be by simply going down on one knee or looking directly down from an overpass, you’ll find your whole perspective changes and your images become more dynamic. I find the right knee of my jeans tends to get threadbare and sometimes people look alarmed when I'm leaning over a motorway overpass, but it’s worth it for a cool shot. 

Try these two out for starters and see how you get on. My bet is, you’ll surprise yourself and get some pretty cool shots. If you like a few more tips and a fun tour around some interesting parts of London, I’d love to see you on one of my Urban Photo Safaris. Or if you’ve got yourself a nice DSLR and would like to learn its ins and out, check out my Getting Off Auto course

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